Never Take Your Smartphone On An International Trip Again

Posted: Feb 20 2017, 8:21am CST | by , in News

Never Take Your Smartphone on an International Trip Again
Photo Credit: Getty Images

You might want to get that burner phone.

Traveling into and out of the United States is always going to be annoying - there are long lines, tons of people who don't know what they are doing, delays, and of course some people can't even get through because of laws and bans. However, there is something else you might want to add to your list that makes international flying not only annoying, but downright dangerous: your smartphone.

While many of us can't imagine going onto a plane without a podcast, the Hamilton soundtrack, or at least some of Michael Jackson's greatest hits, your iPhone is better left on its iHome.

A report from Quartz tells that even if you have your computer, phone, or tablet protected, if someone has it, you're unsafe. Think about it for a second - if someone were to get your phone, what would they be able to find out? Just think about the apps you have: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, your bank account, credit managing apps, Dropbox, your browser, any anything you've sent to anyone.

It opens with the story of Sidd Bikkannavar, a US-born scientist that has flown into Houston from Chile. When he arrive, Border Patrol pulled him into a room and told him that they would release him if he unlocked his phone for them. He explained that since the phone was actually the property of NASA, it may have sensitive information on it. He eventually told him the password and he was released.

But here's the kicker: they left with his phone for 30 minutes after he gave them his password.

Now if you think about how many things you have on your phone that could get you into legitimate trouble with the law (and not your job, significant other, or friends), you probably are pretty safe. Still, it doesn't seem normal that Border Patrol can just look into our phones. In fact, after this report on Medium, some foreign news agencies started to question whether it was even safe to travel to the US.

Still, if your information gets into the wrong hands, it can be dangerous. You can have your identity stolen, you can get embarrassed, and you can lose things that you hold dear to you. In the case of Bikkannavar, there could have been groundbreaking news or discoveries located in his notes, texts, or on his email.

Another thing to take into consideration is that you don't know how long they will keep this information. Have you ever taken a photo that was meant for only one person to see? Have you ever watched a video that might not be in the best taste? Has anyone you are friends with on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn done something wrong? How do you talk to people on Bumble or Tinder?

According to that initial Quartz report, all of that could become part of your record AND could be used against you if you ever have to go to court, for instance.

The question is, is any of this legal? What about your 4th and 5th amendment rights?

Technically, according to Ars Technica, since this happened on the border, you don't have those rights. If you are traveling within the US, you should. It is completely legal for a Border Patrol Officer to ask you to unlock your phone and give it to them, even if you are natural-born US citizen.

Downloading a person's entire phone is already standard procedure in Canada and many countries are following right behind them. Since it is illegal to target individuals, it is likely that they will start doing this for every traveler.

So how can you avoid this intrusion? Well, you can't hand over a phone you don't have. Many people are suggesting that we should all buy "burner phones" to take overseas. It is smart anyway because international calling and texting is expensive.

If you have to travel for work, you might want to consider keeping a computer and phone where you work or buying a phone/computer that you use only for work, which means it should be pretty boring if you do ever go to court.

Another option? Resetting your phone. Completely erasing your phone back to "factory" settings means that all of your information is complete. Then, once you get to your destination, you can simply re-install it using the Cloud. It's annoying but it will keep you safe.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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